Do you like ping pong? Have you ever played tennis or badminton? (And, yes, it’s “bad-minton,” not “bad-mitten”—you’re welcome.) Anyway, if you take various aspects of these three sports and blend them into a hybrid game, you get one of the fastest-growing athletic trends to sweep the nation since the 1970s, when it was first invented. The name of the game is “pickleball.” It’s even more popular now than it was back then!
According to the Pickleball Participant Report, there are more than 2 million players throughout the United States. A former lieutenant governor of Washington invented the game. It was 1975, and his family was vacationing on the Puget Sound. His 13-year-old son was not a happy camper. In fact, his dad, Joel Pritchard, noticed that he wasn’t doing anything more than sitting and staring out the window. The events that followed sparked an idea that is now one of the most popular hobby sports in the country: Pickleball.
Pickleball was borne from a comment that a disrespectful son made
As the story was told by Joel Pritchard’s son, Frank, he (Frank) was acting like a spoiled, ungrateful teenager. The family was vacationing on Bainbridge Island, which many families can only dream about. It is a beautiful place in the Pacific Northwest. Today, it costs more than $4,000 for a week’s house rental. At the time, Joel Pritchard was a member of Washington’s House of Representatives. His son’s bad attitude on vacation demonstrated a lack of gratitude. In his own words, he was acting like a “shi**y kid.” Frank says his dad tried to encourage him to explore the island or do something fun, like make up a game to play.
The teen was determined to complain and NOT enjoy vacation. Not only did he not take his dad’s advice, he remarked that he should be the one to go off and make up a game. Just a short time later, pickleball was invented. The senior Pritchard decided to rise to his son’s challenge (albeit as snarky and disrespectful as it was). He grabbed a wiffle ball that was lying nearby. He made some paddles and lowered a volleyball net to be short, like a tennis net. He called on a few friends to join him. Before they knew it, they made up a game! It was easy to play, competitive and great for all ages.
Mrs. Pritchard chose the name “pickleball” for the game
Frank Pritchard says his mother was a crew enthusiast. Most people know the sport “crew” by another name—rowing. On rowing teams, there’s always a specific boat traveling near the competing water crafts. This boat carries all the extra rowers. (Think “dug out” in a baseball game.) Rowers call the boat a “pickle boat.” Mrs. Pritchard told her husband that “pickleball” would be a good name for his new game. She said the name was fitting because it was a game that borrowed various aspects and supplies from other sports. For instance, it uses a wiffle ball. It also has paddles that are smaller than tennis rackets but larger than ping pong paddles. You play it on a court with a net. You get the idea.
What are the primary rules of the game?
It has been said that pickleball “feels” like playing ping pong while standing on the ping pong table. You can install a court indoors or out. It looks like a miniature tennis court. The following list provides a basic overview of pickleball rules:
- You serve a pickleball underhand.
- Only the serving team can score points.
- The game ends at 11 points, with the winning team beating the opponent by two.
- The person serving stands on the left or right side of the court—left if the team has an odd number of points, right, if even.
- The ball must bounce once on each side before players are allowed to volley (hit the ball without letting it bounce).
- You can only volley outside of the “kitchen,” which is the area within seven feet of the net on each side.
People of all ages can play the game, with intensity and skill level fluctuating, as needed. Joel Pritchard is now deceased, but his son Frank says his dad would be greatly pleased to see how popular his game has become.
Pickleball is good for your brain and body
If you explore the archives on The Hot Mess Press, you’ll find no shortage of posts that mention the benefits of whole body movement. A sedentary lifestyle is the nemesis of good health. Pickleball is a great form of exercise because it requires whole body movement. However, you can adapt your speed and intensity to fit your ability. A study completed a few years ago reported that people who played this game for six consecutive weeks showed improved cognitive skills. This means it’s good for your brain. Check out your community to see if there are any pickleball courts and consider joining (or starting) a club! Simply click on the short video above to learn how to play!